Recommended reading from June

Read the Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

A very entertaining picture book with adorable illustrations, based on the premise that lemmings don’t hurl themselves off cliffs…but has anyone let the lemmings know that? There are positive messages about the power of teamwork and the importance of literacy, but they underpin the story naturally, they are not crow-barred in. I can imagine this working equally well as a snuggly-up book with one or two children, or as a riotous read-aloud for a whole class, probably best with the 4 – 6 age range. I will definitely be watching out for more from this creative team.

Molly and the Night Monster by Chris Wormell

A truly delightful story following the old pattern of something unknown coming closer…and closer…and closer…until it is revealed as familiar and harmless. What distinguishes this version is its beautiful blue ink illustrations which make it look utterly unlike anything else, but are quite exquisite. Highly recommended from birth until they won’t let you read to them any more.

Suzy Orbit, Astronaut by Ruth Quayle, illustrated by Jez Tuya

Libraries are gearing up for the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing (and this year’s Reading Challenge theme) by displaying their space-related picture books, which was how I found this gem. Suzy is beset by problems every few pages which she solves with ingenuity, engineering skill and a can-do attitude. No huge surprises but a well put-together book which might inspire budding inventors to create their own problem-solving gadgets.

Dreadcat by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne

You can always rely on Michael Rosen to lace a thought-provoking moral text with some laughs. This is a picture-heavy book whose plentiful illustrations disguise the weighty nature of its theme. It reminded me of one of the most terrifying parts of ‘Watership Down’ where the band of rabbits temporarily reside in a seeming paradise where abundant food is left out daily…but no-one mentions the rabbits who disappear. This would be a great book to share with siblings with a large age gap, as there are cute mouse pictures for the youngest, but darker issues underneath for those with the maturity to explore them.

Matilda’s Cat by Emily Gravett

Surprisingly few books feature a Matilda in them (apart from the obvious) so it is welcome to see this addition for younger Matildas (ages 2 and up would enjoy it). This Matilda is a feisty sort who enrols her cat in all manner of role play games, with only slightly more enthusiasm from the cat than Mog has in ‘Mog and the Baby’.

Penny Dreadful is a Record Breaker by Joanna Nadin

One in a new-to-me series, Penny is in the mould of Kitty (Bel Mooney) or Daisy (Kes Gray) as a girl who means well but somehow finds herself getting into trouble. I enjoyed Penny’s range of friends, enemies and relations, and her escapades were just real enough to ring true, which I think is the key to this kind of story. There is some use of bold print and different fonts enhance expression, but it is not over-done. My only quibble would be the length of the sentences. Many of them are extremely long and I felt that they might be off-putting for the target age reader (I am assuming roughly 7 – 11). I can see that the stream-of-consciousness format reflects the breathless approach of the narrator, but I do think the long sentences present a challenge for emergent readers. Not a problem if they are being read aloud by an adult, or course, and the 3 stories in here would work equally well in that scenario (and yes, I am aware that I am equally guilty of over-long sentences myself!).

Big Nate’s Greatest Hits by Lincoln Peirce

Well this one was a complete surprise. I opened it with a heavy heart, thinking I ought to read it as it seemed to be quite a big-seller. My heart sank further because I hadn’t realised it was cartoons…and then I started to read. And kept going until the very end. I loved it. Set in a middle school, it was both sweet and caustic, but never unkind. It reminded me tonally of the Garfield cartoons I lapped up in the 80s. So much for sinking hearts. Ideal for ages 8 – 10 (and their aging parents who don’t mind if someone catches them reading cartoons).

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

For further thoughts on this see

All pictures taken by Barbara Thomas

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